ECONOBOX: a small, boxy car normally gas friendly with little to no factory installed options and a low sticker price. CAFE: The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1975 meant to improve the average fuel economy of a manufacturerss line of cars sold in the U.S. in the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo.
American car manufacturers typically had a hard time making money
off of econoboxes, and they considered them "loss leaders" that only
existed to meet CAFE fuel economy standards.
The typical modern econobox was a subcompact car, usually with a three-door hatchback format with transverse engine mounting and front-wheel drive, to maximize interior space despite overall small dimensions. They are usually outfitted with vinyl bucket seats, basic AM radio, a rudimentary heater, foam-cushioned plastic trim, two-speed wipers and painted steel rims with a chromed wheel center cap.
Many of the cars brought to market were actually imports. The Dodge and Plymouth Colts were essentially rebadged Mitsubishi Lancers or Galants. The Geo Metro and Chevy Sprint were rebadged Suzuki Swifts. The Ford Festiva, my personal favorite, has a multi faceted genealogy. It was engineered by Mazda, manufactured by Kia and sold in the North American market by Ford.
Other cars that would fall into the econobox category would include the likes of the Chevrolet Vega, Ford Pinto, early Honda Civics, Chrysler's Dodge Omni & Plymouth Horizon, the Yugo and Fiat 127.
This primary focus of this blog will be on the econoboxes of the late 80's and early 90's.